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Russian olive habitat along an arid river supports fewer bird species, functional groups and a different species composition relative to mixed vegetation habitats
- Mahoney, Sean M., Smith, Anna Nellis B., Motyka, Peter J., Lundgren, Erick J., Winton, Raemy R., Stevens, Bo, Johnson, Matthew J.
- Journal of arid environments 2019 v.167 pp. 26-33
- Elaeagnus angustifolia, birds, breeding season, breeding sites, dry environmental conditions, endangered species, fauna, flora, habitats, introduced species, riparian areas, rivers, species diversity, stopover sites, surveys, vegetation, Southwestern United States
- The establishment and naturalization of non-native Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) in southwestern US riparian habitats is hypothesized to have negative implications for native flora and fauna. Despite the potential for Russian olive establishment in new riparian habitats, much of its ecology remains unclear. Arid river systems are important stopover sites and breeding grounds for birds, including some endangered species, and understanding how birds use Russian olive habitats has important implications for effective non-native species management. We compared native bird use of sites that varied in the amount of Russian olive and mixed native/non-native vegetation along the San Juan River, UT, USA. From presence/absence surveys conducted in 2016 during the breeding season, we found 1) fewer bird species and functional groups used Russian olive habitats and 2) the composition of species within Russian olive habitats was different from the composition of species in mixed native/non-native habitats. Our results suggest Russian olive may support different bird compositions during the breeding season and as Russian olive continues to naturalize, bird communities may change. Finally, we highlight the paucity of research surrounding Russian olive ecology and stress the need for rigorous studies to improve our understanding of Russian olive ecology.